Merriam-Webster defines hall of fame as a group of individuals in a particular category who have been selected as particularly illustrious.
To call someone a Hall of Famer is one of the most prestigious labels you can bestow upon a person. Acknowledging that they are the best of the best in a field is second to none. Winning awards and acquiring accolades are great, they really are, but being a Hall of Famer in any field is something that can not be taken away from you. It cannot be sold on eBay or Offer Up. The honor cannot be sold in an auction.
A hall of fame solidifies the greatness that a person put into their craft and there seems to be one for just about every practice. Sports definitely have their halls of fame on a high school, college, and professional level. There are also the obscure halls of fame like the Robot Hall of Fame in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The National Barber Museum and Hall of Fame in Canal Winchester, Ohio and the Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas, Nevada so there is a pretty wide range.
Then, of course, there are the halls of fame related to music. Everyone or at least a lot of people know about The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Then there is the Country Music Hall Of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. Multiple jazz halls of fame in Alabama, Oklahoma and New York. And America’s Pop Hall of Fame in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
However, when it comes to hip hop, there is not a hall of fame in terms of inducting rappers, producers, DJs, hip hop moguls, and other luminaries within the culture. Which is interesting when you consider that in late 2017, according to Nielsen’s end of the year report on U.S. music, hip hop surpassed rock as the “dominant music genre” in the country. So how is the most dominant genre in the country and the most influential genre in the world without a true home to honor the greats that have ever done it?
Hip hop has influenced all genres over the past 20 years. There have been hip hop crossovers in just about every genre outside of it. During its inception, hip hop was seen a hugely reckless and misogynistic genre. The media did not understand it and called it a fad, parents hated and despised it but kids and younger generation absolutely loved it. It was the younger generations from different regions that took to it and helped the crossover success immensely.
There was 2004’s Over and Over by Nelly and country star Tim McGraw which was a huge Billboard success. Then Lil Nas X took the hip hop/country blend to another level with Old Town Road in 2019. Rock and hip hop have long been connected as evidenced by 2004’s Collision Course album by Linkin Park and Jay-Z. In 1995, Mariah Carey was a young, up-and-coming singer who gave off this sweet, innocent, America’s sweetheart disposition. So “shocking” is a huge understatement when she linked up with Ol’ Dirty Bastard from Wu-Tang Clan for the Fantasy remix. Pop, R&B, EDM, reggae, gospel and many others have been influenced by hip hop for the better.
There are a bevy of hip hop museums spread across the country. In Houston, there is a museum curated to display the impact that the city has had on the genre through chopped ‘n’ screwed music perfected by DJ Screw to the classic car culture talked about in Still Tippin. Atlanta has a Trap Music Museum which is an unconventional museum. It doubles as an escape room and outsiders can have events there should they choose to. There is a pop-up museum in DC that will also travel the country when it is safe to do so.
That brings us to New York City.
Because it serves as the birthplace for hip hop, specifically South Bronx, there have been semi-attempts at a legitimately recognized hall of fame for this genre.
There is the Hip Hop Hall of Fame (soon to become the Museum and Educational Institution) in Manhattan. They had a Hip Hop Hall of Fame awards ceremony show that aired in the 90s but a legit hall of fame was not established. And by a legit hall of fame, it is with a complete ceremony, plaques were given, speeches read and even busts being placed in hallowed halls.
Where the true Hip Hop Hall of Fame should be located? That can be debated although an argument against anywhere but New York City would not be smart or worth anyone’s time. There does, undoubtedly, need to be one, however. Hip hop turned 40 in 2019 and has had more than its share of the devastating loss of lives in the community; from the well known (Tupac, Biggie, Eazy-E), to the lesser-known (J Dilla, Big Pun, MCA) to the often-forgotten (Scott La Rock, Big L) that should be commemorated and honored in a sacred place.
There are not just rappers that need to be honored though. Producers, label heads, DJs, graffiti artists, fashion designers that were influential in this community deserve their shine as well. Museums are nice and very much appreciated as they show artifacts and memorabilia that should be treasured. Every human that has assisted, contributed, created, and innovated to this genre and community deserves to be honored by their own amongst their own.